In fact, all products are aimed at some family member or other. Therefore, understanding what a family is, the difference between a family and a household, and family types are essential for a marketer. Why marketers pay attention to the family concept in understanding consumer behavior? They pay special attention to the family as a reference group because it is there that people are socialized and endowed with their initial social status.
Consumer behavior analysts often address the family as a consumption unit because families make group purchasing decisions and shape their consumption behavior. Families are involved in consumer decisions that involve more than one person. Families make purchase decisions believing that it will maximize the welfare of their members. Although some members might have special allocations or more power over how the pooled resources are used, families pool their financial resources.
A family is an important social unit for at least two consumer-related reasons. You know that many foods, shelter, recreational, and other products and services are consumed jointly by the family members.
Moreover, the purchase and use of many products and services, which we think of as individually consumed, are usually influenced by the family. Thus, consumers’ attitudes toward spending and saving and even the brands and products purchased have been influenced by the families they grew up in.
Family structure specifies the power, responsibilities, activities, and role expectations of each member.
Family structures are also changing gradually, making family purchase decision patterns different than before. Marketers must be sensitive to these changes and the way they influence family purchase decisions and consumption activities. You can thus, argue that the family should be the main focus for studying consumer behavior.
Therefore, marketers need to understand the nature of the family’s influence on its members and how they make purchase decisions. This knowledge will definitely help them better in developing marketing programs and in formulating strategies to implement those.
How to Use Family Concepts in Marketing?
Marketers need to consider family aspects, as most of the products are aimed at families. Not all will use a particular product in the family, but some products are used jointly by the family members.
From the previous discussion of this unit, you came to learn that, in certain purchases, husbands play the only role; in others, wives play the only role. Again, in some other cases, children make purchase decisions independently. You have also noticed that certain purchase decisions are taken jointly by husbands and wives.
There are also occasions, though husbands and wives take joint purchase decisions. Husbands play more important roles than wives. Yet again, some joint purchase decisions are areas where wives play more dominant roles than husbands.
Marketers should know specifically which of the above situations prevail in the case of his product. The answer to this question may be known from the answers to five relevant questions. The questions are summed up below:
Question one: Who initiates the purchase decision process?
Purchase decisions, as you know, are not instant. They are rather complicated processes involving several stages. The first of these is the initiation of the purchase decision process. Who will initiate the decision process depends on the type of product or service in question.
Generally, one likely to get the most benefit out of the purchase initiates the purchase decision process. For example, in kitchen appliances, the wife is likely to initiate the purchase decision process, as she will get the most benefit out of this purchase.
Question two: Who dominates the decision process?
Purchase decisions, in most of the cases, are taken after the evaluation of purchase-related information.
The involvement of family members in the evaluation process depends on the type of product considered and its difficulty. In complex purchase situations, more of the family members take part in the evaluation process.
If the product is used exclusively by only one member of the family, he is likely to play a role in the evaluative process, as seen in the shaving cream purchasing decision.
Question three: Who makes the price decision?
It basically depends on the role structure of the family and the price of the product. In costly items, husbands usually take price decisions as the money comes out of their pockets.
In families where wives are dominant, price decisions are mainly taken by them. This role is also determined by the social class and subcultural differences that we have discussed before.
Question four: Who makes the final purchasing decision?
This again depends on the product’s nature and its importance as well as uses. If the product is likely to be used by everyone in the family, such as a car, husbands, wives, and children arrive at the final purchase decision.
Question five: Who makes the overt act of purchasing?
Though this is not very important as the final decision is made, the marketer should know the answer to this question for the last attempt to convince the purchaser. This depends on the type of product/service considered. For example, if the item is a life insurance policy, the husband is most likely to make the actual purchasing.
It is imperative for appropriate marketing decisions that the marketer knows the answers to the above-mentioned questions. The answers to these questions depend basically on the buyer’s social, cultural, and individual perspectives.
Family and Household Defined
The term family is complicated to define because of its composition or structure. A family may be defined as a group of two or more people related by blood, marriage, or adoption living together in a household. This term is used to designate a variety of distinct social groups.
Persons constituting a family may be described as members of the most basic social group who live together and interact to meet their personal and mutual needs. Families are like organizations formed to accomplish particular functions more effectively and efficiently than individuals can do independently.
Mr. Charls Horton Cooley, in his book ‘Social Organization,’ describes the family as one type of primary group characterized by face-to-face association and cooperation, which is fundamental in forming the social nature and ideas of the individual.
The relationships among family members are characterized by mutual feelings, commitment, intimacy, affection, respect, and obligation. The relationship among family members is very fluid, unlike other groups. The family may also be termed as a social organization that defines its members’ roles and behaviors.
Families, you know, are formed to perform certain functions better for the members constituting the family. Sociologists classify family functions on three dimensions.
The dimensions are (1) cohesion, (2) adaptability, and (3) communication.
The first one, cohesion, is the emotional bonding that family members have toward each other. It measures the intimacy, degree of mutual feelings, and the sense of separateness of members from each other.
The second dimension, adaptability, is a marital or family system’s ability to change the power structure, role relationships, and relationship rules in response to situational and developmental stress. It measures the family’s degree of facing the challenges of changing the needs of family members.
Communication ability, on the other hand, enables the family to share with each other’s needs. It also plays a role in cohesion and adaptability.
Poor communication ability of family members affects sharing, cohesion, and adaptability, within the family. If the cohesion level is high in a family, there will be high identification with the family, and such a family does most things together and probably chooses the same items and brands.
The terms ‘family’ and ‘household’ are often used synonymously in consumer behavior study. Though they carry almost the same meaning, there is a basic difference between these two terms.
The term household implies a broader concept. It relates to a dwelling rather than a relationship. It consists of a single person, a family, or any group of unrelated persons who occupy a housing unit.
For example, an unmarried homeowner and a university student sharing an apartment or cohabiting couples may be households. Households may also be termed as ‘an individual or group of people who share a common dwelling.’ It includes the related family members and all the unrelated persons who occupy a housing unit.
It differs from the family in that household describes all persons, both related and unrelated, who occupy a housing unit. Thus single individuals living alone, same-sex couples, unmarried couples living together, and larger groups living under the same roof are examples of households.
From the above description, it is clear that there could be three types of households: the family households, the non-family households, and the single-person household. A family household consists of two or more persons living together who are related by marriage or birth.
A married couple, with or without children in the home, is the most common family household. Other family households include a single parent with one or more children or a variation of family members living together, such as two brothers who share a residence.
Nonfamily household, on the other hand, consists of two or more unrelated persons sharing living quarters. Members may be roommates or maybe nonmarried couples of the opposite or the same sex. An individual who lives alone in a separate residence is classified as a single-person household.
Types of Family
Individuals are members of several kinds of families. They could be members simultaneously of an extended family and a nuclear family. This can create confusion for marketers in understanding family decision-making unless they are not clearly distinguished. In the following few paragraphs, we shall discuss different types of families:
Family of Orientation or Consanguine Family
This is one of the basic forms of family. It is the family primarily based upon blood relations into which we are born. This is known as a family of orientation because an individual is oriented on basic values, beliefs, and attitudes by this family, which significantly shape his behavior.
Thus, the family into which one is born is known as the consanguine family or family of orientation. This family cares for and socializes us as children and gives us our initial class status.
The Conjugal Family or Family of Procreation
The family that is established by marriage is known as the conjugal family or family of procreation. It is established by choosing a mate and rearing children. Thus, it consists of the husband and a wife. They may have a blood relation or not. This is the simplest type of family in the number of members.
It is found in every society around the world. With the establishment of the conjugal family or family of procreation, one’s lifestyle changes significantly, as a new consumption unit is created as soon as such a family is established.
This is the basic form of family. It is found in almost all societies. Two parents and their children constitute the nuclear family. Thus, it is made up of the conjugal family and their children.
This is also the immediate group of father, mother, and child/children living together. G. R. Leslie defines it as ‘the family consists of two adults of the opposite sex, living in a socially approved sex relationship with their own or adopted children. This family is virtually universal in every society and plays an important role in individual consumer behavior.
Thus, this type of family is culturally desirable and the most common type of family found worldwide. There are several variations of the nuclear family. There could be a single-parent family caused by the death of one spouse or separation or divorce.
The extended family includes relatives other than parents and their children, spans all generations of living members, and derives from the nuclear family. This type of family may include grandparents, greatgrandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, step-relatives, and in-laws.
Thus, it is the nuclear family and additional relations. It also involves the inclusion of one or both sets of grandparents. Berkman and Gilson describe the extended family as consisting of the nuclear family and their relatives. Other writers are found to be conservative in defining the extended family.
According to some of them, a nuclear family and at least one grandparent live within the household.
The extended family was once the normal mode of living of the people of South Asia.
But, over the last 25 years, it is found to be declining. The reasons are numerous. Some of them could be increased urbanization, geographic mobility, women’s involvement in professions at greater numbers, increased living costs, and raising children.
The big cities nowadays experience nuclear families in greater numbers. Marketing activities thus carried in urban areas are, thus, increasingly aimed at the members of the nuclear families.
Family Consumption Decision
The family, of course, is an especially important primary group. Accordingly, let us examine how buying decisions are made within the family and factors that influence product and brand choice.
Families are like different groups in many ways. We know that groups face problems, and they make decisions to solve problems. Like other organizations, families also face problems. In this case, purchase-related problems and work out solutions to those problems by purchasing specific products and services.
As marketers frequently wish to influence families’ decisions, it is essential to understand how consumption decisions are made within the family. Marketers should understand that each member plays some role in family decision making.
They should also understand that one member may play an active role during a particular purchase decision, where others passive, and vice versa.
The importance of the roles of the members may not be equal in every purchase decision. The role and influence of family members in consumer decision making vary depending on the product and family characteristics. The family unit’s actual influences depend very much on the type of product or service being purchased.
In certain purchasing decisions, we may find the husband exerting more influence over the wife. In other cases, the wife is found to exert more control over the purchase decisions. You may also find situations where husband and wife are arriving at purchase decisions jointly.
Yet again, there are situations where children come onto the surface and play roles in the purchase decisions. We know that families are small-scale social units with structures developed by their members according to prevailing cultural norms.
Thus, the society and culture of which the family is a part determine family members’ roles in the purchasing decisions. Such influences basically come from the culture, subculture, social class, and other reference groups.
The purchasing behavior of a family also changes as it progresses through its life cycle.
Besides, family members’ personalities vary, determining who will play a role in family purchase decision making. In the following few sections, we shall discuss how cultural and social influences, reference groups, stages of the family life cycle, and family members’ personality traits influence their decision-making.
Influence of Culture on Family Decision Making
Culture, you know, is everything in our surroundings that are made by human beings. Cultural influences have broad effects on family buying behavior because they permeate our daily lives.
Our culture determines what we buy and use and how we buy them. Some of our culture’s important values are retaining traditions, organized religion, conventional marriage, and having children. These values are gradually eroding, particularly in urban areas.
For example, some 25 years back even, most urban families in our culture ate at least two meals and breakfasted a day together. Mothers were found to devote four to six hours a day preparing those meals.
Today, about 50% of the urban women are employed out of the home, and average family incomes have risen considerably.
These changes have led to changes in the roles of husbands and wives in family decision making. As more women find employment outside the home, they can give their children less time and educate them on certain values and norms. These have also brought significant changes in family purchase decisions and consumption patterns.
Since the same cultural traits do not prevail in all cultures, husbands and wives’ roles also differ from culture to culture. In our culture, wives usually play passive roles in family purchase decisions, particularly in rural areas.
Their husbands, particularly in taking family purchase decisions, consider them subordinates. In urban areas, the picture is relatively different. Their husbands at a greater number here consider wives’ opinions.
Culture also determines the roles of husbands and wives within the family.
A role is a set of actions and activities that a person in a particular position is supposed to perform, based on both the individual and the surrounding persons. In our culture, husbands usually play goal-directed roles, where wives play emotional and expressive roles.
Husbands are found to influence decisions on products related to family needs, where wives are concerned with the aesthetic aspects of products.
Though family roles have changed a good deal over the years, traditionally, a married male parent has held two positions: husband and father. The purchasing behavior and activities that make up a man’s role as the expectations determine a father, his wife, and his children have regarding a father’s behavior.
As people occupy numerous positions, they also have many roles. The male in our society, for example, not only performs the roles of a husband and father but also may perform the roles of an office executive, political activist, an office-bearer of a local sports club, and student in an evening university class.
Thus, several sets of expectations are placed on each person’s behavior. His roles not only influence his general behavior but also buying behavior. The demands of a person’s many roles may be confusing and inconsistent. Assume that the father in a family is thinking of buying a car.
His wife may want him to buy it next year. His older son is hoping for a brand new car. His daughter wants a 1500 cc car. His fellow activists of the same political party are casually suggesting that he increases his contribution to the party.
Several classmates at the university are urging him to buy a specific brand. A colleague indicates that he should buy a different brand. Thus, his behavior is a function of the input and opinions of many, including family members.
Family roles relate directly to purchase behavior. The husband in the family is likely to be involved heavily in purchasing products like cars, VCD players, and cigarettes. The wife makes buying decisions related to many household items such as microwave oven, sewing machine, toaster, decorative items, etc.
The actual influence depends on who uses the product. One using a particular product will try to dominate the purchase decision process of that product. Husband and wife participate jointly in the purchase of a variety of products, especially durable products.
When two or more family members participate in a purchase, their roles may dictate that each is responsible for performing certain tasks: initiating the idea, gathering information, deciding on whether to buy the product or selecting the specific brand.
The particular jobs performed depend on the types of products being considered. The role patterns discussed above are changing gradually as more and more women enter careers and earn and spend money for their families.
This results in husbands’ involvement in some of the household work, traditionally the wives’ domain. This also changes the role patterns of husbands and wives in family-related purchases.
Husbands are now found to influence in household purchases, traditionally the wives domain. As women become economically self-sufficient, they can make more purchasing decisions. Moreover, if the husband is liberal with his wife, that wife will influence family-related purchases, an urban phenomenon.
Influence of Subculture on Family Decision Making
By this time, you are well aware that culture influences family purchase decisions. In unit 5, you realized that subcultures exist, i.e., culture again may be divided into different subgroups known as subcultures. Subcultural differences have a significant impact on family purchase decisions.
Due to sub-cultural differences, roles of husbands and wives also vary within the family. Moreover, relative to other subcultures, individuals in a certain subculture may have stronger preferences for certain types of clothing, housing, furniture, or foods.
One of the subcultures, religious subculture, may shape family consumption and determine husbands’ and wives ‘ roles significantly in the family unit.
For example, families belonging to the Muslim subculture here in Bangladesh do not buy and consume certain products and services such as alcoholic beverages, pork, etc.
Families having strong bondage to the said religion will be conservative in buying and consuming material goods. Again, in the Hindu religious subculture here in Bangladesh, it is known that husbands dominate more in the family purchase decisions.
Regional subculture also influences family purchase decisions. The products families will buy and consume, and the roles husbands and wives will play in family purchase decisions are affected greatly by the regional subculture. The climatic condition of a particular region may dictate the pattern of housing and clothing consumption of families.
For example, Chittagong Hill-Tracts people live in different houses and wear different clothing types, unlike other countries. Fashion consciousness is also affected by regional subcultures. People of certain regions are found to be more conscious about fashions than people of other regions.
Roles that husbands and wives play in family purchase decisions are as well affected by the regional subculture. In Bangladesh, it is known that, in northern districts, women enjoy dominating family purchase decisions.
On the other hand, in the southern districts, wives enjoy their husbands’ dominance in family-related purchases. In urban areas, middle-class families are found to take family purchase decisions jointly by husbands and wives. In rural areas, husbands are found to dominate family purchases.
Influence of Social Class on Family Decision Making
Within all societies, people rank others into higher and lower social classes of status. This placement results in social classes. To a great degree, individuals within social classes develop and take on common patterns of behavior. They may have similar attitudes, values, language patterns, and possessions.
Social class, thus, influences family decision making to a great extent. Family lifestyle is dictated by the class to which it belongs, and consequently, the products and services and the brands and stores they select.
Upper-class families usually buy many high ticket items than middle and lower-class families. Moreover, they also prefer to buy unique products and services.
For example, the upper classes’ families prefer to buy apartments in Gulshan, Dhanmondi, and Banani of Dhaka city. These are the posh areas of the city, which signifies upper-class status. The media use of families is also related to social class. Lower and lower-middle-class families are usually the heavier TV viewers, where upper-middle and upper-class families are the heavier magazines.
The leisure activities undertaken by families are also affected by their social classes. It is found that in lower-class families, husbands and wives enjoy their leisure times independently. The same picture is also seen in the upper-class families here in Bangladesh.
On the other hand, in middle-class families, husbands and wives enjoy their leisure jointly along with the children.
Lower and middle-class families spend most of their leisure time indoors, such as visiting friends and relatives. On the contrary, upper-class families spend their leisure in outdoor and social activities and traveling abroad.
The class to which the family belongs also influences the role of playing in family-related purchase decisions. In Bangladesh, in most cases, husbands dominate family purchase decisions in lower-class families.
In middle-class families, husbands and wives are found to reach collective decisions regarding family-related purchases. Upper-class families here in Bangladesh reveal a different picture.
The wives usually take most of the family-related purchase decisions in the upper classes. Husbands are the least concerned about how much is being spent on household purchases. They are also not concerned about where the money is being spent, I mean on what items.
Influence of Other Reference Groups on Family Decision Making
In addition to cultural, sub-cultural, and social class influences, decision-making in families is also affected by other groups, known as “significant others’. They include parents, friends, associates, and peers of both husbands and wives.
We learn certain purchase-related behaviors and roles from our parents when we live with them. Later, in our conjugal lives, we are likely to display those behaviors and exercise those roles that we have learned from our respective parents.
For example, if a husband learns from his parents that family purchase decisions should be taken collectively by husband and wife, this particular husband is likely to practice this pattern in his conjugal family.
If a wife, for example, learns from her parents’ family that wife plays a dominant role in family-related purchases, she is likely to practice that pattern in her conjugal family.
In addition to parents’ influences, families are also influenced by their intimate friends and associates. They give families purchase-related stimuli.
Families always try to keep pace with their friends and associates. As a result, they are likely to assume the same lifestyles as their close friends and acquaintances by buying similar products and services and selecting the same brands and stores.
Other reference groups, particularly in major purchases, such as furniture, television, apartments, and so on, and in selecting clothing styles and entertainment activities, influence families.
Colleagues also play a major role in particular family-related purchases. Because of working in a particular organization, the husband of a particular family may need to wear a particular dress, drive a particular automobile brand, or even live in a particular area.
Concept of Family Life Cycle
Marketers are using the concept of the family life cycle over the last 60 years. In analyzing and predicting families’ consumer behavior, they have recognized the various stages in the family life cycle and each of these stages’ characteristics. It combines age, marital status, presence or absence of children, and the ages of children.
The family life cycle describes the orderly progression of stages through which households tend to pass during their lives. You should note that not all people, of course, go through each of these nine stages, particularly here in Bangladesh.
Yet, the life cycle model does reflect a basic pattern of movement, which was developed by Wells Gubar in 1966.
The basic assumption underlying the family life cycle approach is that most households pass through an orderly progression of stages, each with its own features, financial position, and purchasing patterns. “Family life cycle is the classification of family and non-family households based on the assumption that these entities, like individuals, move through a series of relatively distinct and well-defined stages with time.”
The nine stages comprising the family life cycle are (1) Bachelor stage; (2) Newly married couples; (3) Full nest#1; (4) Full nest#2; (5) Full nest#3; (6) Empty nest#1; (7) Empty nest#2; (8) Solitary survivor in the workforce; and, (9) Solitary survivor retired.
Now you will be given the basic idea on each of these stages in the following section:
It consists of young single people not living at home. They have got a few financial burdens. They have usually fashioned opinion leaders. People of this stage are recreation-oriented.
Newly Married Couples
They are young individuals of the opposite sex, married recently, and having no children. They are usually better off financially than they will be short. The highest purchase rate and highest average purchase of durables are the two other characteristics of this stage of the family life cycle.
Full Nest #1
It starts when the newly married couple has their first child born. The stage continues up to the youngest child becomes six years of age. Their liquid assets are found below. They are also found to be dissatisfied with their financial position and the amount of money saved.
Full Nest #2
This stage starts when the youngest child becomes six-year or over. A family’s financial position is found to be better at this stage. This is because of the career progress of the husband.
Moreover, the wife is found to start finding employment and earns money contributing to the total family income. Families of this stage are found to be influenced less by advertising.
Full Nest #3
This stage comprises of the older married couple with dependant children. The family’s financial position remains better. More wives of this stage are found to work and earn money.
Some children are also found to get a job, becoming self-dependent, thus relieving the family financial burden. Advertising can hardly influence people of this stage in the family life cycle,
Empty Nest #1
It consists of older married couples having no burden on children as they leave their parents. Children usually head into the labor force, becoming economically self-reliant and living separately.
Families are found to be most satisfied with their financial positions. They can save a significant amount of their incomes at this stage. They enjoy making gifts and contributing to charities and social causes. They are usually not interested in new products at this stage.
Empty Nest #2
It consists of an older married couple, no children living at home, and the family head is retired. Because the family head retires, family income drops at this stage. But, as the wife continues to work, family income is usually not dissatisfactory at this stage.
Solitary Survivor in Work Force
This stage usually consists of a wife. She still works and has a good income because she can solely spend her entire income.
Solitary Survivor Retired
This is the last stage of the family life cycle. It usually consists of a wife who retires from the active work, and as a result, the family’s financial position drastically falls.
Moreover, emotional difficulties start at this stage. Family requires a special need for attention, affection, and security.
Consumption Patterns Over Different Stages of the Family Life Cycle
Buying behavior and consumption vary according to the stage in the family life cycle. The family life cycle approach’s rationale is that buying relates more to the family development stage than to any single demographic factor within the life cycle composite. Quite a few studies have found relationships between life cycle stages and buying differences.
The purchasing behavior of a family changes as it progresses through its life cycle. Consumer’s arrival at each stage of the life cycle initiates the need for new classes of products.
When single persons move into a separate apartment, they need to buy basic household equipment. When these persons marry, there is a need for more furnishings, and the arrival of children triggers a host of baby-related purchases.
Thus, each stage of the family life cycle opens new vistas of needs that can be met by marketing people who watch for these opportunities. You will be given ideas on purchases during different family life cycle stages in the following few paragraphs.
During the bachelor-stage, earnings are usually low as the individual starts his career. Due to limited financial burden, the family can spend more on personal care items, clothing, recreation, and travel. Families also buy basic kitchen equipment, basic furniture, and so on during this stage.
As the Newly Married Couple is financially better off, they buy many items, particularly durables. They buy refrigerators, televisions, stereos, sensible and durable furniture, and vacations.
They are also found to buy appliances, cars, and a lot of clothing at this stage. They may also start investing in building a reserve for the future. The marketers of such goods, including financial services, and apartments, may successfully target this group.
When the first child is born, the Full Nest#1 stage begins, and the child’s presence alters family consumption patterns overnight. Here, home purchasing reaches a peak. A lot of money is being spent on child-related purchases. Families are found to be interested in new products at this stage.
They are also attracted to advertised products at this stage. Families buy products like baby food, toys, baby furnishing, washers, TV, chest rubs and cough medicine, vitamins, etc. A significant amount of family income is also spent on paying medical bills.
In the Full Nest#2 stage, child-oriented purchases continue.
But, as the family’s financial position improves, the family remains oriented toward new purchases. In this stage, the family buys more of the food items, children’s clothing, bicycles, junior sports equipment, larger-sized items such as bigger TVs and refrigerators, musical instruments, etc. The family also starts saving for their children’s education.
In the Full Nest#3 stage, the family’s financial position further improves.
They spend a lot of money on children’s education as their studies begin. Advertising can influence less at this stage as the family becomes more experienced in purchasing. There is a high average purchase of durables at this stage.
New, more tasteful furniture, automobiles, non-necessary appliances, magazines, dental services, and luxury items are bought heavily at this stage.
During the Empty Nest#1 stage, homeownership reaches the peak. Families become interested in travel, recreation, and self-education at this stage. Families make a lot of gifts and contributions at this stage.
Families are not interested in new products but rather buy vacations and luxuries and spend money on home improvements. Families also spend a portion of their incomes on protective investments to make their retired lives comfortable.
At the Empty Nest#2 stage, the family’s income falls, and they spend much of their time at home. They buy medical appliances, spend money on medical care, buy products that aid health, sleep, and digestion.
In the Solitary Survivor (in the labor force) Stage, more money is spent on vacations, recreation, and health-oriented products. Out of these expenditures, the major portion is spent on health care and medicare purposes.
During the last stage, the family’s financial position deteriorates significantly as the regular income-generating activities cease. Most of the family income is being spent on paying medical bills and buying medicines.
Many of the individuals belonging to this stage are now moving to older adults’ homes as they need special care, attention, affection, and security.
Findings such as these are useful in devising marketing strategies, including promotional messages. Marketers find that the stage in the family life cycle often predicts consumer behavior better than age does. One couple may postpone having children until their middle thirties; another may begin their family in their middle twenties.
Thus, even though the couples are 10 years apart in age, they are at the same stage of the family life cycle and exhibit similar buying behavior. Marketers should be aware of important nuances, however.
Even though the two couples purchase the same kinds of products, the older couple may be better able to afford more expensive items. In conclusion, we can say that the family life cycle concept is a handy tool for marketers.
Marketing managers for numerous products can use this concept to identify market segments and explain their behavior. This can help them devising appropriate marketing strategies, thus combating competitors successfully.
How Personality Traits of Family Members Affect Their Behavior?
Personality is the composite of a person’s patterned, enduring, and interacting characteristics. In general, how these traits are organized determines how a person responds to stimuli. Certain traits dominate others, and therefore we commonly label people as aggressive and compliant, obnoxious, or charismatic, friendly, or aloof.
A great deal of research into the effects of dominant personality traits on consumer behavior was carried out during the 1950s. Marketers hoped to achieve substantial insights into why people bought certain products and not others.
Two family-related personality characteristics affecting purchase decision making are;
- birth order differences, and
- conformity orientation.
Birth Order Differences of Family Members Affecting Consumer Behavior
An individual’s birth order is responsible for the development of certain traits in his personality. These traits have
obvious influences on his roles in the family, and ultimately family consumption decisions. Those who are born first usually are found to lack self-confidence.
As parents and other family members show more concern for the firstborns, they gradually become dependent on others and cannot decide independently. Thus, they can easily be convinced by others, which is a good lesson for marketers.
On the other hand, those born in the middle usually receive less attention from family members. As a result, they are found to develop self-confidence by doing things independently. This ultimately has a direct bearing on their roles in family decision making and consumption behaviors.
On the other hand, the younger ones are more sentimental and emotional and expect their anxieties to be released by others. They also are found to lack confidence, are susceptible to interpersonal influence.
Conformity Orientation Influencing Roles of Family Members in Purchase Decisions and Family Consumption Patterns
Not all people conform equally to the norms and others’ opinions. Some conform fully, while others do not.
The conformity orientation an individual has determines his role in family purchase decisions and his consumption patterns. Individuals who are low in selfesteem usually conform quickly to avoid conflicts.
Such persons, as a result, cannot play any decisive role in family purchase decisions. Significant others also influence Their selection of different products and brands.
Persons of authoritarian type (who have a strong parental need, are submissive, or traditional) usually conform more readily than others. This type of person usually may be convinced by their reference groups or advertising appeals very easily, which the marketers should note.
Children’s Influence on Family Purchase Decisions and Consumption
Except for a few exceptions, every family consists of children. The presence of children dramatically alters family consumption patterns. Consumption behavior of children is influenced by many parties, including parents and friends. Understanding this will help a marketer develop the right product for children and reach them effectively.
Most of the studies conducted so far on family purchase behavior actually focused on husband-wife decision making. In most cases, researchers ignored children’s influence and roles on family purchase decisions and consumption decisions.
But the reality says that children exert substantial control and influence on family-related purchase decisions. It should be noted that consumer behavior studies on children’s roles mainly took into account the direct influences. Researchers overlooked the influence of indirect influences children make on family purchase decisions.
Children usually start influencing family purchase decisions as soon as they learn the basic communication skills of interacting with others. As they become older, they start influencing family purchase decisions more than before.
Their influences are not restricted to one or particular areas of purchase. Rather influences are seen in quite a several areas. As families become smaller, children continue to play an important role in certain family buying decisions.
Teenagers are likely to become involved in purchasing home computers, stereo systems, furniture, durables, and even automobiles. Marketers realize that, although parents eventually make actual buying decisions, their children can exert an important influence. The extent of children’s decision making influence varies from product to product and from family to family.
The influence depends not only on the age of children but also on the values of their parents. “A research study of children’s influence on family decision processes for twenty-five products found that for child-centered (e.g., vacations, restaurant choices, outside entertainment) children were perceived to be influential by most households. Children participate much more in problem recognition than in later decision stages, and older children are more influential than younger children.”
Different studies found that children affect family consumption in many ways.
First, children in any family are considered very expensive dependents. During the first few years of infancy, they cannot verbalize their needs. Parents must anticipate those and make provisions for their satisfaction.
Moreover, their parents’ long-run needs must also be anticipated and made to meet in due time.
Second, when they become older, they start thinking of them as essential family members. They prefer certain products and brands that parents should buy.
If it happens otherwise, children may even show use inertia. Therefore, parents should actively consider their children’s preferences while buying major items.
Third, when children grow older, they like to make independent purchase decisions in certain items such as undergarments, shoes, dress materials, etc.
Most families are found to give freedom to their children in these purchases. Thus, marketers of these specific items may successfully aim this group through advertising and promotional activities.
Modern urban families are found to influence their children indirectly in their purchase decisions instead of direct control. Parents are now found to be free and intimate with their children than ever before, bearing on children’s influence on family purchase decisions.
These have transformed families into child-oriented ones changing the patterns of children’s influence on family purchase decisions.
Influences on Children’s Behavior
The behaviors that children display are shaped by their basic values, attitudes, interaction, and orientation. Several factors determine children’s basics.
Some of the notable factors are parents, peer groups, social class, subcultural differences, and gender differences. We are now going to highlight these in turn:
Parents’ Influences on Children’s Behavior
Consumption behavior of children is affected or influenced by their parents in many instances.
Regarding parents’ influences on children’s behavior, it is found from different studies that children do not always take their parents’ advice regarding their purchase/ consumption decisions.
They depend more on their parents when they find the purchase difficult and involve more money.
The reason is that they are dependent on parents for the money required to make such purchases. Studies also revealed that teenage children rely less on their parents than the younger children in making purchase-related decisions.
The reason for this is that during this age, children are found to spend less time with their parents, and as a result, parents’ influences diminish. Some other studies revealed that, in purchases of clothing, sports equipment, small appliances, and some food products, older children rely more on their parents.
Parents’ influences on children are found to be more particularly in difficult purchase situations. Again, between boys and girls, it is found that girls are influenced more by their parents in arriving at their purchase decisions. In general, parents’ influence on children’s behavior depends on the product or service in question or the problem context.
Peers’ Influences on Children’s Behavior
Regarding peer group influence on children’s behavior, it is known that teenaged children are influenced more by their peers in assuming the purchase behavior models.
Children rely on peers for purchase decisions, first of all, to identify themselves with a particular group.
Second, they are subject to peer influence to satisfy their psychological, social, or physical needs. Different studies also found that secondary school students are influenced more by peers than elementary school students.
As children of secondary school levels spend more time with their peers, they naturally develop an intimate relationship with their peers and are influenced more.
Children of this age group consider their peers better judges in some specific purchase decisions such as clothing and entertainment. Studies also revealed that boys are more influenced by their peers than girls in purchase-related decisions.
Influence of Social Class on Children’s Behavior
Attitudes that children form depend to a great extent on the class to which their parents belong. These attitudes, in turn, influence their consumption behavior.
Thus, social classes influence children’s behavior, particularly consumption behavior, to a great extent. Different social classes have a different bearing on children’s behavior.
It is found from different studies that lower-class children enjoy more freedom from their families in making purchase decisions than middle-class children. In middle-class families, children are subject to more parents’ supervision in their purchase and consumption behavior.
Though some middle-class families allow their children to buy certain items independently, they are made accountable for their parents’ decisions. In the upper-class families here in Bangladesh, children enjoy even more freedom in making purchase decisions than lower-class families. This is particularly true when children reach their teenage.
Influence of Subculture on Children’s Behavior
Subculture is also an important determinant of children’s consumption behavior. In unit five, you have been given quite an idea of what a subculture is and the different subculture types.
In Bangladesh, families belonging to the Muslim subculture usually exert more influence on their children’s behavior, including purchase behavior.
Again, the regional subculture study reveals that children can independently decide regarding many of their purchases in an urban subculture (one of the regional subcultures).
In general, children cannot think of buying and consuming many rural subculture items even though their families can afford them. This is because of the differences in mentalities, education, orientation, and rural and urban families’ attitudes.
Influence of Gender Difference on Children’s Behavior
You know that, in our society, the roles of males and females are discrete. This is taught in the family from very childhood.
We teach our children the differences in their roles, through the purchase of products, among others. When parents buy clothes for their children, they buy different types and designs for boys and girls.
This practice has a far-reaching impact on children’s consumption behavior as it is instilled in their minds. When children grow up, they start behaving differently, keeping in mind their gender differences.
In the following few paragraphs, you will be given a brief idea of some of the important aspects related to children’s consumption behavior:
Internet, Television and Children’s Behavior
In this age of mass communication and sky culture, children of all classes, areas, and ages are exposed to televisions. This exposure influences their behavior in turn.
Studies on children’s behavior reveal that older children, and those heavily exposed to televisions, can remember more of the TV commercials. That is, the retention of advertisements is high in the case of these children. As the ages of children vary, the impacts of television advertising on their behaviors vary.
Different studies suggest that television advertising influences even young children’s behaviors to differentiate TV programs and commercials. As a result of which, children’s behaviors are even influenced by the advertisements aimed at adults.
Therefore, at times, younger children press their parents to buy some of the items for them that are actually targeted to the adults. As children get older, they can understand advertisements’ symbolic meanings, influencing their consumption behavior in turn.
The behavior of Teenage Children
The marketers, for a variety of reasons, now consider Teenage children very significant. Marketers, therefore, pay special attention to teenagers. As parents give their teenage children some money to spend, they decide independently on many purchase decisions.
Therefore, they deserve the special attention of marketers. In certain families, teenagers buy certain household items because of their parents’ involvement in a job or profession, not to give time for family purchases. Thus, children can decide on the brands to buy with regards to those household products.
It suggests that marketers of certain household products may develop advertising messages aimed at teenagers.
Moreover, teenagers sometimes accompany their parents when they go shopping and may influence different brand selection items. Teenagers also expect to receive due attention from their parents to select certain important and durable products. This aspect also carries a marketing significance from advertising and product design points of view.
Teenagers not only influence family purchase decisions; they are also future consumers of certain items, such as cosmetics, hygiene products, and undergarments. Marketers of such products should take note of this and develop strategies accordingly.
College/University-Going Students and Family Consumption
When children approach colleges or universities, they become independent buyers and consumers of many items.
Some of these items include books, reading materials, and so on. During this stage, they also start developing brand preferences as they become more aware of different products.
Moreover, they start influencing family purchase decisions more than ever. These few aspects of college/university-going children also bear marketing significance. Smart marketers take note of them and act accordingly.